Thursday, October 7, 2010

Heart of a Samurai

Heart of a Samurai
by Margi Preus
Abrams, 2010. 302 pgs. Fiction

As a young boy Manjiro dreamed of becoming a samurai, but knew he had no chance since he hadn't been born into that class. Swept away and shipwrecked on a rocky island pinnacle, he and his fellow fishermen are rescued by a shipload of barbarians--blonde, bearded, blue-eyed American whalers whom the Japanese had been told would use them cruelly and probably kill and eat them. Instead, they were greeted with kindness and integrated into the ship's crew. All the group were put ashore in Hawaii--then, the Sandwich Islands--except Manjiro whose curiosity about this newly-discovered world was boundless. He became the adopted son of the ship's captain, William H. Whitfield, who took him to America, taught him English and farm work, and enrolled him in the premier navigational school of the day. Manjiro's story is true, and Preus' novel is a sprightly and faithful retelling of the story of a young man who faced possible death or imprisonment when he eventually returned to Japan, but whose dreams came true as he became an agent for the change that would bring East and West together in the modern age.

For more information about Manjiro, see also : Emily Arnold McCully, Manjiro: The Boy Who Risked his Life for Two Countries, and Rhoda Blumberg, Shipwrecked! the True Adventures of a Japanese Boy.

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